Whether you are recycling office paper or disposing of caustic chemicals, waste management is a universal consideration for businesses. Especially in situations where hazardous or regulated waste streams are involved, a turnkey, centralized total waste management (TWM) program can often mean greater efficiencies, reduced costs and peace of mind from a compliance standpoint.
In a TWM program, contracted disposal experts manage all waste streams across all facilities, gathering data and utilizing industry knowledge to standardize processes, measure performance and progress toward sustainability goals. They can supplement existing teams or serve as your dedicated resources.
Whether a TWM program is right for you depends on factors such as your current waste management protocols, the scale of your operations/waste volume, specialized materials requiring disposal, and your related business goals. TWM programs tend to be especially compelling, for example, if you self-manage waste disposal, handle hazardous materials that require specialized disposal, have numerous sites dealing with various waste streams, or do not have centralized control over companywide disposal practices.
If you are reading a publication like Chem.Info, chances are that one of the scenarios above applies to you. So, what benefits might a TWM program provide?
The Value of a TWM Program
Strong TWM programs are typically tailored closely to individual company needs to provide maximum return on investment (ROI), but in general you can expect to benefit from several of the following factors.
Improved Compliance and Risk Reduction
Relying on an experienced single source for management of transportation, disposal and recycling of hazardous, nonhazardous, special and universal waste can reduce risk related to lack of uniformity in waste management practices. Highly qualified, trained and well-supported employees with extensive experience at specialized waste management companies can help you handle even the most complex hazardous waste streams. As a result, they can ensure compliance with all regulations related to consolidating waste management functions—and they can do it in a manner that keeps your employees safe.
There are several ways that a TWM program can save you money. First of all, waste management companies with broad networks have strong negotiating power with vendors, and thus they can often save on costs associated with transportation, disposal or recycling through brokered deals. A strong TWM provider actively looks for additional waste reduction opportunities and process efficiencies throughout the course of a contract term, analyzing data to streamline operations. A TWM provider can recognize opportunities for savings that may previously have gone unnoticed simply by having a comprehensive view of companywide waste management.
Goal Progress Tracking
Besides saving money and avoiding fines, a TWM program can create a path toward realization of sustainability goals. Whether “zero landfill” is an objective or not, TWM program providers can help companies gain a comprehensive grasp on their waste management situations while also generating and analyzing the data necessary to create or measure against key performance indicators laid out in corporate sustainability initiatives. They can even provide initial waste audits and analysis to establish a baseline if waste management data is unavailable, and they can also implement and manage a waste tracking system once a TWM program is underway.
The biggest benefit of a TWM program is sometimes simply having access to the deep knowledge of dedicated experts whose core competency is complex waste management. These experts can not only identify opportunities for improvement of internal processes and structures that are causing slowdowns/inefficiency, but they can advise on innovative means of recycling or disposing of waste in a manner that saves money and reduces liability.
What to Look For in a TWM Partner
Should you decide that a TWM program may make sense for you, the next step is determining the right partner to provide TWM services. Besides pricing, there are a number of additional factors that should weigh in on your decision:
Perhaps the most obvious consideration is whether or not a TWM program provider has the experience and expertise required to handle the volume and complexity of your waste streams. If you have hazardous or other specialty waste streams, it is important to find a partner that can effectively handle this major source of liability. Companies that can internalize complex waste may be especially compelling, as this is an indicator that the company is intimately familiar with specialized waste management.
One factor that will impact efficiency of a TWM program is the geographic reach of a partner. Look for companies that have a large number of facilities for waste management to keep logistical costs down. Also, consider the size of the company’s network of partners, as brokered agreements with local waste management companies can also help to keep your costs down.
Strong Customer Support
One of the most overlooked factors when companies are choosing partners is the level of service they can expect to receive from their partner, so do your research. Look for a company with accessible, knowledgeable customer service and technical support staff. Consider openness of communication, responsiveness and willingness to collaborate. Consider also the company’s record of reliability and longevity of existing client relationships: strong indicators of how you will be treated.
TWM Opportunities And You
In industries like automotive manufacturing, TWM programs are already regarded as invaluable. Automakers have vastly decreased environmental impact, improved efficiencies and realized savings by engaging in rewarding TWM partnerships. In other industries, awareness of TMW programs is lower, but there are extensive opportunities for waste management improvement going untapped. In many cases, those who have engaged a TWM provider are already wishing they had done so sooner based on the ROI and collaborative guidance they experience.
While a TWM program would likely make sense for any company employing a reader such as you, the best way to know for sure is to discuss opportunities for improvement with an established provider. You may be surprised at the opportunities you uncover.
Brad Ledy is a Manager, Technical Support, TWM at US Ecology.